Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Friends and Enemies

The British statesman Disraeli said, "The Empire has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests." A bit realpolitik and better suited for the Cold War but wise counsel nonetheless--worth bearing in mind as you read the following articles:

Tom Donnelly in the Weekly Standard writes on how not all our allies are in Europe. Japan, according to Donnelly, has thrown its lot in with us globally because its government agrees our strategic goals (recently articulated by Rumsfeld) of transforming the politics of the greater Middle East and containing the growing power of the People's Republic of China.

In the brief pause between the Eurolove-fests of the past two weeks, it was leaked that Japan has essentially agreed to conduct a joint defense of Taiwan with the UnitedStates. This is a huge development and an act of real courage by the Japanese government. [WOW. ed.]

Japan's embrace of U.S. primacy in East Asia also makes its contributions to American adventures in the Middle East far more significant than they would first appear. Even after the first Gulf War, Japan contributed a tremendous amount to offset the costs of U.S. military operations; it continues to be a reliable contributor--despite the slowing of economic growth in Japan--but now is participating directly in military and reconstruction operations.
Like the United States, Japan has developed a fully modern economy without succumbing to post-modern politics. With the North Koreans popping missiles above the home islands and a rising China just across the sea, Japanese strategists are focused, and are animated by a sense of urgency hard to find even in London. Lately it seems like the Japanese take the military balance across the Taiwan Strait even more seriously than the Taiwanese do themselves.

Militarily, the Japanese also have a lot to offer. Not the least of these qualities is location--airfields and other facilities in Japan are absolutely essential to the conduct of any significant U.S. military operations in the region. Without access to these airfields, a defense of Taiwan would be close to impossible. Further, the Japanese "Self-Defense Force"--the euphemism which identifies the Japanese military--is a very capable force, especially the navy and air force, with a relatively high degree of interoperability with U.S. forces.

On the other hand, Mark Steyn writes that despite the recent 'charm' offensive by Rice, Rumsfeld and Bush of the death of "the West." [That is somewhat intrinsically saddening for me until I realize that "the West" of the late 20th century was as much an answer to Stalinist aggression as it was states that truly shared a global strategic vision. The demise of the former has certainly corrupted the latter.]

According to Steyn this change in tone forbodes ill for substance:

But, in the broader sense vis-à-vis Europe, the administration is changing the tone precisely because it understands there can be no substance. And, if there's no substance that can be changed, what's to quarrel about? International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific-the-way-we're-able-to-be-such-great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.
Nato will not be around circa 2015 - which is why the Americans are talking it up right now. An organisation that represents the fading residual military will of mostly post-military nations is marginally less harmful than the EU, which is the embodiment of their pacifist delusions. But, either way, there's not a lot to talk about. Try to imagine significant numbers of French, German or Belgian troops fighting alongside American forces anywhere the Yanks are likely to find themselves in the next decade or so: it's not going to happen.

America and Europe both face security threats. But the difference is America's are external, and require hard choices in tough neighbourhoods around the world, while the EU's are internal and, as they see it, unlikely to be lessened by the sight of European soldiers joining the Great Satan in liberating, say, Syria. That's not exactly going to help keep the lid on the noisier Continental mosques.

Take the time to read it as well as Steyn's earlier post on Bush's trip.

UPDATE [by The Monk]: Austin Bay disagrees with Steyn and touts Bush's speech in Belgium on Monday as another V-E Day (go to his site and follow the link to Bay's column). The Monk has traveled to two of the smaller countries in Eastern Europe who see great hope (Czech Repub.) or great coercion (Hungary) from further integration into the EU. But the bottom line for those countries seems to be that they feel there is no choice but to integrate as much as possible with Europe as a whole and try to play nice with others. That means the Franco-German axis driving the policies of the EU has both the power and some ability to coerce the Eastern European countries that are potentially the US's best allies.

There are exceptions to that rule: Poland, Czech, Hungary, Romania, and Latvia all sent troops to Iraq; the Czech Republic threatened to veto Spain's proposal to forbid EU nations from hosting Cuban dissenters in their Cuba-based embassies; Poland has shown some muscle on EU representation issues. But the signs are less promising than Bay's overly optimistic take. Hopefully the Eastern European countries will continue to balk at Franco-German overreach and the UK will remember its "special relationship" with the US. More importantly, the Franco-German tendency to overplay its hand is probably the best bet for the US retaining both NATO's prominence and neutralizing any preliminary steps the EU takes to become a US counterweight.

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